The First Human Killed By a Robot

The Death of Kenji Urada, 1981A Mr. Robert Williams was the first man to be killed by a robot, in a factory the year 1971. There exists no detailed description online of how it happened — unlike the second recorded accident which has a very descriptive story, borderlining something you’d anticipate to read in a Frank Miller comic. According to Wikipedia, it was quite gruesome:

Kenji Urada (born c. 1944, died 1981) was notable in that he was one of the first individuals killed by a robot. Urada was a 37-year old maintenance engineer at a Kawasaki plant. While working on a broken robot, he failed to turn it off completely, resulting in the robot pushing him into a grinding machine with its hydraulic arm. He died as a result.

Pushed into a grinding machine. Could it be more horrifying? Well. Of course it could. It could have been one of Samsung’s autonomous machine guns following the orders of another human. Or a SWORDS armed Talon robot. In fact, shortly after Kenji’s death I’m sure an army general heard the news from one of his nerdier soldiers and responded through the thick smoke of his cigar: “What? Haha. A robot pushed him into a … hey. Wait just a minute, can we make something like that portable?”.

I illustrated Kenji’s death for dramatic effect, and in his memory. But let’s not forget, you need intent to kill someone. Which the robot obviously didn’t have, so it was just good ol’ human error that killed poor Kenji.

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6 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. This is very nitpicky, but you need intent to be convicted of murder, but not to kill someone. This can be done by accident.

    Perhaps the robot can get the charge reduced for pleading guilty. Involuntary manslaughter, perhaps?

  2. Hah — I actually thought about that but didn’t really reach a conclusion because of cars. No one says “He got killed by a car” — you’re always killed in a car accident. Maybe it would be best, in (mindless) robot related deaths, to say “He got killed in a robot accident”, and consequently deciding a verdict? :) Definitely material for the Robot Ethics Charter.

    But in any case, you’re right. My last remarks were mainly to deter Hollywood inspired robot fear :)

  3. Cry…
    I don’t want to become a human hamburger!

  4. Steve - O

    I, for one would like to welcome our robot overlords…

    Sorry, couldn’t resist…

  5. eathon

    i agree with number 4

  6. Nina

    I’m doing a short article on this incident for my high school robotics class, and I’d just like to make a note most other websites say that the date was 1979 not 1971. Just a note.
    Sorry, I don’t usually correct people like this Dx

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